Chinese hockey veterans hopeful for Beijing Games

With less than 100 days to go to next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, some veteran hockey players in China are back on the ice rink, eagerly anticipating the chance to cheer on their home team as fans.

Yu Xin and his teammates first began playing hockey in the 1970s.

And though their own competing days are largely over, they hope this year’s Olympic team will have a chance to shine on the world stage.

"It's a once in a thousand years chance for the China team. The team could experience the atmosphere of the event, and other teams' professionalism and techniques, and find where they're lagging behind."

China's women's team is internationally competitive, but the men's are skating on thin ice.

The fate of the men's home team, in an event where the host usually gets an automatic ticket to play, is now on the line -- as the International Ice Hockey Federation investigates whether their level of play is up to standard.

And even if the team manages to qualify, they face an uphill battle, up against powerhouses like Canada and the United States in the first round.

"China could be considered a dark horse. If it just scores one goal against a strong team like the U.S. or Russia or Germany, then that would be quite the honour... The disparity is like that between a primary school kid and a PhD. They study the same subject, but how big is the gap between a primary school student and a PhD?"

Yu and his teammates say hockey in China has already come a long way from their early days.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to invest heavily in winter sports, and there's been a boom in new rinks in Beijing.

But it's still a niche sport in the country, especially outside the chilly northeast.

China is not nearly as strong in the Winter Olympics as they are at the Summer Games, earning just one gold medal in Pyeongchang in 2018.

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